Halladay swats away Nats, & a rivalry is born

Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a rivalry.

Meet the new most-hated team in Philly, the Washington Nationals.

Yesterday the two teams met in Clearwater on March 7, but it had all the snap, crackle and pop of an April 7 encounter.

Roy Halladay vs. Stephen Strasburg. Aces R Us.

If that wasn’t enough, things got ratcheted up just a tad when Strasburg hit Chase Utley in the shin. Halladay responded in the kind when the Nats came to bat, whizzing a pitch past Tyler Moore’s back.

Dennis Deitch has the blow-by-blow here.

Halladay was sending a message, not just to the Nationals, but to his own team as well.

And what was he saying? I’m back, and I have your back.

All of this can only be good news for the Phillies, who are clearly a bit irked at being assigned also-ran status in the National League East. They surrendered their crown to Washington last year, and the Nats clearly have gotten under their skin.

It might be time to set an over-under on the number of bench-clearing soirees these two teams engage in this year.

I’ll set the line at 3. And I’m taking the over.

Many of these Phillies sound like they’ve been been doing a slow burn all winter. All they’ve read is that they are too old, too fragile to compete at the level fans here have become accustomed to before last year’s tailspin.

Roy Halladay threw a little gas on the fire yesterday.

Good for him.